Earlier in the week, we had some snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Most roads are actually fine, having either been sanded or rained on enough to melt anything that stuck.
The little connector segment I use to get from West Lake Sammamish (near Sunset Elementary) to Eastgate in Bellevue was pretty bad this morning. I should have realized something was amiss when I had a little wobble as I turned in the parking lot. About a hundred feet later, I had my first spill. It was one of those cases where I was losing directional control as I was just about to grab onto the nice, solid fence for balance.
Since I was on a tight schedule for a morning conference call, I rationalized that the most expedient way would still be taking the switchback portion (see left), even though it would be treacherous and I’d probably have to walk my bike up it. Once past that, I’d be fine.
The road is as steep as in the picture above. It was much more slippery thanks to a sheen of black ice. Paradoxically, the moss, which is the Raison d’être for the sign, was the best traction available. The bike wanted to slide out, but it was otherwise uneventful.
At the top, the road levels out as it parallels I-90. There aren’t any trees on the south side, so it gets what little sunlight is available this time of year. There wasn’t any ice on this section, so I started riding again. All was fine until I came around a shaded corner and hit another huge patch. I went down spectacularly.
|Even worse when icy|
The thought process when this occurs is strange. First, there’s the reflex to try to stay upright by making counter-steering moves or slowing down (reducing side-to-side motion) or pedaling with less torque or leaning or something.
When it’s obvious this isn’t going to work, acceptance of the inevitable kicks in. I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve been able to “relax and tuck” inward during the fall, letting my more padded parts absorb the bulk of the impact energy. With my winter clothes on, my skin doesn’t get scruffed up, though I always end up with a trophy bruise.
Time slows down during the actual fall. The bike falls to the left. I initially landed on my shoulder. There’s an 180 degree spin as my mass overtakes the bike’s. The rider clears the bike, and lands on his butt. With it being so icy, I continued to slide for a few feet. My brain’s doing all sorts of wacky processing: I hear the birds singing over highway noise, I marvel at thousands of rotten blackberries still attached to their bushes, and I make sense of a result I got while running a problem in Weka.
Finally, time accelerates as I take stock of my situation: Is anything barreling towards me from any direction, meaning this would be a very good time to move out of the way? (no) Am I injured? (no) Is the bike okay? (yes) I was going to be content pushing it until the end of a trail, but was then passed by another cyclist asking if I was okay. With him ahead of me providing some advance warning of road conditions, I mounted up, took it slow, and got into work just as the conference call started. (I wonder what they’d say if they knew I was dressed like a bumble bee?)
I’m used to being less tense after riding. Today, I was impatient with everything and everyone at work. When I left, I was unsure whether there would be any lingering ice even though it’s warmer (40F) and has been drizzling on and off. I took it pretty slow until I made it past the school, where all this started.
I may be the only person in the area who is hoping for a Pineapple Express to cleanse the roads. (Update: As Kevin noted, I just want the roads cleansed.)